[I want to thank Cheryl Niemeier, Director of Library Services at Bose McKinney & Evans LLP, for offering to guest blog on the Bloomberg/BNA Integration and Pricing.]

I recently had the pleasure of meeting my new Bloomberg Law Representative to discuss current BNA subscription options with regard to the integration of those services into the Bloomberg Law platform, and also got a demo of the BLAW app, which I’m told very closely mirrors the newest online Web interface for BLAW. While BNA content has yet to be incorporated (full integration expected by year end with BNA Health and Labor content migrating first) into the BLAW interface, I came away from my meeting guardedly optimistic that the integration and pricing options are generally palatable for the librarian and at least a small win for the end user whose content world will significantly expand should their firm choose to move to the BLAW platform.

The BLAW pricing options fall into two buckets outlined below, both of which offer access to all content, and require ids and passwords for each user. The platform provides all-inclusive access with no libraries to choose or out-of- plan charges for specialized content. (Please note: BNA customers do not have to migrate to BLAW, BNA direct will continue to be supported, and pricing options for it will remain in place.)

Option 1 (Firm-wide with access for all attorneys and support personnel for all BNA/BLAW integrated content):

  • Pricing is based on the number of U.S. based attorneys.
  • 5 year pricing schedule is provided with ability to opt out every two years.
  • The pricing schedule begins at a reduced rate (based upon a ratio of those who will receive immediate value and those who will do so over time).
  • Incremental increases each year will ultimately move all attorneys to the standard $450/user/month cost by the 5th year
  • For those firms that adopt early (before July 1st), Bloomberg will base the starting ratio at the minimum entry point.

Option 2 (Individual per-user access to all BNA/BLAW integrated content):

  • 2 year subscriptions only
  • $450/user/month in 1st year
  • Nominal bi-annual increases

A look at the pros and cons of the BLAW pricing options raises a nearly equal number of both.

On one hand, several disadvantages arise with the BLAW content and pricing model, but these might not necessarily be deal breakers. Firstly, per user pricing may create roadblocks to determining the cost of the research for client billing purposes, although Bloomberg indicates they will work with customers wishing to devise a method to recover the cost via client billing. Secondly, annual incremental firm-wide pricing increases could be rather steep and by year five for some firms would likely far exceed what a firm might pay for a Westlaw or Lexis flat-rate contract, and thus could be a hard-sell to firm management. Thirdly, inflexibility in the all or nothing content leads to the argument that you end up paying for content that may never be used, which it turn creates an unyielding pricing model. Fourthly, while Bloomberg Law offers a great deal of public company information it is sorely lacking content about private companies and for finding people, thus a firm would need to have that content in their Lexis or Westlaw contract, or utilize low cost one off public records vendors, such as TLOxp (www.tlo.com) which provides low cost searches with no monthly service fees. Finally, while early adopters receive an incentive break in the cost for the first few years ultimately all firm-wide subscribers end up at the $450/user/month in the 5th year.

On the other hand, advantages to the content and pricing models also exist. Firstly, transparency in pricing – no more wondering what the Jones’ law firm is paying – everyone ultimately ends up paying the same in year 5 of the firm-wide deal or out of the gate in the individual per user per month deal. Secondly, the per user monthly pricing model in both deals may actually be a better fit for the growing trends of not billing and clients not paying for online research, and any retail cost that Westlaw or Lexis applies to a search or getting a document etc. is arbitrary anyway as are their negotiated special offers. Thirdly, perhaps the fact that each user gets access to everything including cases, BNA reports, court dockets, Legislation/Regulation Watch, and other specialized transactional practice products such as Dealmaker could also be advantageous as it opens a whole new world of information which in turn may actually help the researcher get to their answer quicker. Fourthly, library staff and/or practice groups might benefit from the BLAW select per user price compared to their current BNA direct firm-wide spend on a cost comparison basis and as a result those users get the benefit of the aforementioned content gains. Fifthly, the BLAW platform offers a great deal of customization for alerts, news, dockets, and other content as well as collaboration tools for sharing and annotating your research much like similar features on WestlawNext and Lexis Advance. Finally, getting all new content developed by BLAW no additional cost and the ability to opt out of the deal every 2 years, both of which are generally not the case with other vendors, are also positive aspects of the firm-wide pricing model.

In large part, determining if the pros outweigh the cons of switching to BNA/Bloomberg Law or vice versa will be dependent on a firm’s current BNA spend compared to cost of same on BLAW, plus savings realized from not renewing or reducing content in Lexis or Westlaw contracts, coupled with cancellation of other print and online subscriptions (i.e. PACER, CCH, RIA, Fastcase etc.) that overlap with BLAW content.

So get your calculators out because in the final analysis, number crunching and possibly whittling or cutting of current subscriptions will be the only way to truly determine if the marriage of BNA/Bloomberg Law content will be a match made in heaven for your law firm, and actually end up either saving your firm money, costing more or be an almost break even proposition.